Where to begin. There is so much swirling around me and within me at the moment, that I seem to fade into the background noise.
Who in their right mind would want be front and center to all of this ... madness and chaos?
I want to hide. I want to run away. Surely there is a place free from this ... storm.
But I have no place to hide, no where to run. It is too wide, too deep ... can’t get over it, around it or through.
So now what?
When I look around at the outer world I see signs of structural and ecological decay. I see our cultures carrying the contagions of neglect, abuse and alienation. Where there should be guilt, I see conceit. Where there should be accountability, I see a deficiency of outrage or shock.
But I also see signs of wellness, the evolution of holistic systems, and the reconnection of mind, body and soul. Where there is pain and conflict, I see attempts at reconciliation. Where there is fear and loneliness, I see signs of cooperation and connection. Where there is hunger and spiritual thirst, I see nurturance and spiritual depth.
So life is not without its salves.
But it is turbulent nonetheless. For every Apostolic reformationist, there is a Pagan permaculturist -- or at least I hope so. But the storm itself never recedes.
And so I retreat. Into the private world of my own makings. And here too, the storm rages.
My home is falling apart around me, my medical bills are piling up, my finances are dire and my schedule is too full given all the physical limits I have to endure.
But still ... for every sorrow, there is hope. For every pain, there is laughter. For every worry there is joy. But the storm still rages.
So I retreat into the work. And here finally there is calm. There is silence. There is softness, a place to rest. And here within my work, I breathe ... shallowly at first, then deeper as I return to grace.
But then I am conflicted. Why does peace for me exist only in the places between? Why can’t I bring this peace with me? What use is this bliss if I cannot bring it to bear within the worlds, the people, the pain, the decay and the fear. What use is my serenity if it is outside of the very worlds I occupy.
So I surge forward into life bringing with me all the bliss, peace, silence, softness and generosity I can muster.
And yes, I still stand in the midst of the madness, but I am not afraid. I rest within the swirls of chaos and I surrender to it.
I am one with the pain, the loneliness, the decay and the conceit ... and I am filled with peace, outrage and compassion. I am angry and I am delighted, I am grieving and filled with hope, and I am silent and screaming.
It is so easy to retreat from it all. It takes a bit of madness to face the abyss .... and smile. And I am grinning like a Cheshire cat as I surf the currents spilling tears over all I see and sense.
I am crying for all the pain and I am crying for all the beauty. May my tears bring moisture to the thirsty. And may my ramblings bring nurturance to anyone suffering in the storm’s wake. Let us join hands and ride this wave together. For in all of this chaos, remember that you are not alone.
Submitted by katrina on Mon, 10/03/2011 - 6:20pm.
I delivered this sermon in August of 2006. It is as true today as when I first delivered it. As we bask in this season of Beltane, its message of love, especially self-love seemed so potent.
I want to just say a little bit about what I call ‘the Journey.’ I have said this to some of you, because some of you have asked me questions about feeling that because things are difficult that you’ve lost your way, that you’ve somehow lost your way on the path. And I’ve said to you, “No, that’s part of the path.” You haven’t lost your way, the path includes the entire wealth of human experience. The highs, the lows, the confusions and the false clarities, all are part of the process.
Perfection is not our goal. We all know that, right? We are not trying to produce perfect people. Perfection is actually a trap; it is a distraction. The goal of your spiritual journey is for you become more of what you already are. Now, that has a trap, there is a trap in that statement. The trap is that, whatever you imagine that you are, you then carve into stone and say, “This is what I am!” – and that is not what we mean. What we mean is that you become more of what you already are … beyond your comprehension; beyond your small, narrow view of reality. It’s not to celebrate the mediocre, or to celebrate and rejoice over your own misconceptions, repressions, fears, illusions, and whatever. It’s just to point out that we’re not trying to make you into carbon copies of someone else.
Our goal and our job in each lifetime, in each incarnation, is to become what we already are in this lifetime. Some say that once you are born into this world, you spend the first half of your life figuring out why you are here. What are you here to do, what is your purpose? We are trying to speed up that process here in Reflections, but we need to also recognize that this process of coming to know who you are is part of the reason why you are here. Does that make sense? It’s not just, we figure it out and then we can do what we’re here for. Part of the reason we’re here is to figure that out. The self-discovery process is as important as the later work.
I get to hear lots of folk’s darkest thoughts, their biggest fears and their self-assessments – which very rarely have been a reflection of reality, I have to tell you that – and one of the things that always amazes me is how little we see of ourselves. It’s what keeps me humble in a very real way. We very rarely see ourselves for what we really are. And being unable to see ourselves, we very rarely see each other. (Sometimes we can have a better view of other people than we do of ourselves but our own self-blindness often obscures it through projections.)
But it is just amazing how much self-abuse we engage in, within this process. I just want you to consider that this is not a Judeo-Christian path. We’re not looking for martyrdom. The purpose of this path and this work is not to make you suffer. I say that, knowing full well that it can feel like we are using diamond dust in our efforts to get you to shine. The goal is to get you to shine, not to get you to suffer; but sometimes it hurts getting to the shiny part.
So the pain is not the goal. That’s not why you’re here. You’re not here to suffer. That’s not your job. It is not even my job. My students may believe otherwise, but my job is not actually to push you out on little rafts onto the River Styx, nor to push you off the cliff. My job is to catch you, when you do fall, and to fish you out of the deep water when you can’t swim. You’re job is not to suffer. You’re job is to grow. And part of that job is to find the joy, the beauty, the sweetness, even in the darkest moments. So, let’s stop inviting more suffering into our lives. Let’s stop holding that as a banner: I must be growing because it’s hard, or it hurts. Let’s use another measure: I must be growing, because there is such beauty around me. There is such love, such preciousness in the world.
I think I have said before that this is the sermon every black, woman minister I know shares at some point as part of her ministry. And it’s from Beloved by Toni Morrison. It is the sermon given by Baby Suggs, Holy to her people, primarily ex-slaves.
“Here,” she said, “in this here place, we flesh; flesh that weeps, laughs; flesh that dances on bare feet in grass. Love it. Love it hard. Yonder they do not love your flesh. They despise it… No more do they love the skin on your back. Yonder they flay it. And O my people they do not love your hands. Those they only use, tie, bind, chop off and leave empty. Love your hands! Love them! Raise them up and kiss them. Touch others with them, pat them together, stroke them on your face ‘cause they don’t love that either. You got to love it, you! And no, they ain’t in love with your mouth. Yonder, out there, they will see it broken and break it again. What you say out of it they will not heed…What you put into it to nourish your body they will snatch away and give leavins instead. No they don’t love your mouth. You got to love it."
"This is flesh I’m talking about here. Flesh that needs to be loved. Feet that need to rest and to dance; backs that need support; shoulders that need arms, strong arms I’m telling you. And oh my people, out yonder, hear me, they do not love your neck unnoosed and straight. So love your neck; put a hand on it, grace it, stroke it, and hold it up. And all your inside parts that they’d just as soon slop for hogs, you got to love them. The dark, dark liver - love it, love it, and the beat and beating heart, love that too. More than eyes or feet… More than your life-holding womb and your live-giving private parts, hear me now, love your heart. For this is the prize."
You’ve got to love yourself. And you’ve got love the work that you do. We have got to turn this entire world on its head; that’s says to be spiritual, to seek vocation, is about lack and scarcity. It’s not. It’s about loving yourself, loving your work, loving your hands, loving your heart, loving your feet! Because out there in the larger world it may never get appreciated by others.
This is the Journey -- love, love, love. It starts with love, it ends with love, and it is sustained by love. Never forget that.
How can you be the beauty, the star, and the beacon in this world if you can’t love yourself? It’s not possible.
This is the Journey we’re on. We are discovering ourselves; we are rediscovering ourselves; so that we can learn to love ourselves -- in all our gloriousness and all our pettiness; in all our strengths and all our weaknesses; in all of our boundless beauty and all of our limitations. It’s the work of a lifetime, and all I ask is that you take a step every chance you can.
That’s why we’re here, that’s the Journey.
Even in the midst of darkness; even in the midst of fear, sadness and grief -- love, love, love.
Submitted by katrina on Mon, 05/03/2010 - 11:51am.
Merlin Mann had a wonderful series up recently on making time for creativity. He makes many, many salient points. Although all of his points apply (check it out, it really is that good), one in particular really struck me as oh so appropriate for this particular rant.
“Embrace the disingenuous charge of elitism (or, as I prefer to call it, maturity) by not pretending that everyone is equally “special” to you. …Widen the channels to the people you adore, and never make them suffer [because of] your weird compulsion to wave at strangers.”
Yeah! Exactly! What he said!
At some level this should be a no-brainer. But I often find myself in situations where almost complete strangers demand more of my time and attention than I would actually tolerate from the people I love. Sometimes, they are not complete strangers, but because of the lack of a real and meaningful connection, they come very close to it.
To put it bluntly, I do not have sufficient time in my life to respond to everyone and everything that is screaming for attention. So I prioritize. I am more likely to respond favorably to requests for my time depending on the nature of the request and the level of our prior relationship. Seems pretty simple and straightforward to me.
A few examples might be helpful.
- Scenario 1: A person who has served with me in working groups, teaching teams and conference style discussion panels, calls and asks if I could offer her some career advice. We have a shared history and a friendly relationship. I respond warmly to this request.
- Scenario 2: A person who has taken a few of my classes sends me an email asking me for recommendations for further studies in a specific area. I remember him as a curious but committed student. I search through my referral lists and respond with suggestions.
- Scenario 3: One of my full-time students has an emergency and calls me for support. I cancel what I can of my plans and respond accordingly.
- Scenario 4: A person new to the DC area emails me asking for suggestions for getting involved in the local pagan community. I send him my standard email with helpful links to local sources of info and contact.
- Scenario 5: A community member writes to me and asks when I plan to teach a particular class again. I send them what I know of my upcoming offerings and reassure them of any future plans in that area.
- Scenario 6: A person writes to me asking me to teach/speak/attend an upcoming event. I check my schedule for availability and respond accordingly with either regrets or further questions.
- Scenario 7: A friend or colleague writes to me asking me to teach/speak/attend an upcoming event. I check my schedule for availability (possibly rearranging what I can) and respond accordingly with either regrets or further questions.
What these scenarios have in common is that the nature of the request is inline with the nature of our relationship.
But in contrast, consider the following scenarios.
- Scenario A: A stranger writes to me asking me to be their priestess/teacher/mentor/whatever. If I do not get an “uncomfortable” vibe from the note, I send them a link to Reflections, Connect DC, my standard spiritual counseling/consulting services list, and, if they mention being local, the standard email with helpful links.
- Scenario B: A community member writes to me asking me to be their priestess/teacher/mentor/whatever. I assume they are aware of my classes, rituals and mystery school.
- So if they have attended any of my classes or rituals, I might suggest they consider joining my mystery school. But I also check my calendar and if I can, I offer them a time for a phone chat or and in person meeting to discuss it further.
- But if they have not attended ANY (to my knowledge) of my local offerings, I send them my standard spiritual counseling/consulting services list.
And it is this last bit that recently bothered a member of my local community. Both scenario A and B-2 represent requests not in line with the nature of our current relationship. And because of that, I am less inclined to either make time in my already full schedule or offer one-on-one face time w/o some form of payment.
When I reach out to others, I try to be careful when asking for some of their precious time. For example, I am really happy with my current medical doctor, chiropractor, intuitive healer and massage therapist. And I have a warm relationship with every single one of them. But I would not dare just call them up and ask for some of their time without expecting to pay them.
I also have several very close friends who are fairly well known, extremely talented and even busier than I am. And even knowing that they *love* me, I am very careful with taking up too much of their time.
Hell, even in my family we ask, “Is this a good time?” when we call.
I don’t know. Maybe I *could* be a bit more accessible. But then I ask you this? What do I drop to make this a reality? Do I drop the time I dedicate to my full time students and initiates? Do I drop the time I set aside to check in with my colleagues and elders? Do I drop the time I set aside for teaching, counseling and writing? Do I drop the time I set aside for self-care and self-nurturing? Do I drop my business or my plethora of medical appointments? Or do I cease the methodologies and processes that allow me to continue to work while facing several long-term chronic illnesses? Because dropping something currently on my plate is what I would have to do to be more accessible.
The bottom line is this … I am not trying to be elitist or arrogant. I am trying to make sense of an already very full life that has several real physical and energetic limits. So I am truly sorry if the person from B-2 above was disappointed.Note 1. But your potential or very real disappointment is not my metric in deciding how to manage my life.
In my mission statement, I state the following.
My mission is …
To share my gifts.
To actively participate in my own evolution.
To acknowledge divine mystery.
To experience the joy, sweetness and beauty of life.
To be willing to touch and be touched by the journeys of my loved ones.
To be grounded in the present moment with an open heart and mind.
To engage in radical self care.
This is my metric. And this … is my boundary.
1. To be truthful, I did offer a free phone call for us to discuss exactly what she was looking for from me. But I suspect that because I listed my prices for spiritual counseling and consults, she was disinclined to go further.
Submitted by katrina on Wed, 08/13/2008 - 11:08am.
Here I sit, listening to Sanskrit chants, burning incense, cuddling with my calico and sipping tea .. my version of a graceful return.
Between the Worlds was incredibly rich and diverse as usual. But this year especially, I came away hungry for more time with my sisters on the path. Spending time with Aeptha, Thorn, Macha, Elspeth, Helena, Lyrtah, Judy, Mambo Vye Zo, and of course the incredible Shakmah Windrum, I became keenly aware of how much these women feed my soul.
Many, many times as I crossed Aeptha's path we exchanged that look of just incredible love and exuberance. And Thorn and I could not stop just hugging each other. I get to hang out with my brothers on the path far more often. The men of the daddy enclave, as Thorn calls the priests of Seelie Court, are often just a phone call away.
But it is the women, even those of us who live within hours of each other, that seldom get to talk in real time.
We must change this. Thorn and I made a commitment this year to keep in touch and it has worked for the most part even when our lives were crazed. I think I need to make that same level of commitment to keep up with my others sisters as well.
Because ... it feeds *me*.
And if that is not radical self care ... I do not know what is.
Love and blessings to you all,
Submitted by katrina on Mon, 11/12/2007 - 1:54pm.